Vice President Kamala Harris urged Democrats on Tuesday to seize the “opportunity” to pass voting reform, disparaging the Senate filibuster and suggesting the mechanism should be eliminated. But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) immediately threw cold water on the idea.
The Biden administration and Democratic Party leaders have been pressuring moderate Democrats — like Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — to abolish the Senate filibuster, thereby allowing Democrats to ram through Biden's agenda unencumbered by the constraints of democracy.
But a massive problem, aside from recalcitrant Democrats, stands in their way: the 2022 midterm elections. Nearly all election forecasts predict that Democrats' control of Congress will evaporate when November hits. Harris recognized this reality during a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday.
What did Harris say?
Accusing Republicans of exploiting "arcane rules" — a trite reference to the Senate filibuster, a mechanism that Democrats and Republicans both have used as a means to block one-party rule — Harris urged lawmakers to act on voting reform.
"We do not know when we will have this opportunity again," she said. "Senate Republicans have exploited arcane rules to block these bills."
"And let us be clear: The Constitution of the United States gives the Congress the power to pass legislation. And nowhere — nowhere — does the Constitution give a minority the right to unilaterally block legislation," she added.
While Harris is correct in stating that the Constitution does not explicitly provide the minority party "the right to unilaterally block legislation," neither does the Constitution explicitly permit the majority party total control over the lawmaking process. In fact, the spirit behind a bicameral legislative body, in which one chamber is composed of proportional representation (House) and another is composed of equal representation (Senate), is to create a balance of power by distributing power.
What did Manchin say?
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Manchin reiterated support for the filibuster, yet another indication that he refuses to buckle under pressure from his Democratic colleagues.
"We need some good rules changes to make the place work better. But getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better," Manchin said.
"The filibuster is what makes the Senate hopefully work when it's suppose to work."
The media narrative would have you believe that Manchin and Sinema are the lone wolves blocking the Democratic Party's agenda, but Politico reported that other moderate Democrats do not outright support abolishing the filibuster, either.
In fact, Politico cited four other Democratic lawmakers — Sens. Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Chris Coons (Del.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) — as examples of the "range of views and Democratic hesitance" to fundamentally changing Senate rules.
While speaking in Atlanta on Tuesday, Biden said the quiet part out loud, so to speak.
As Biden urged lawmakers to pass voting reform, he declared, "Let the majority prevail." He then immediately advocated changing the rules of the Senate — i.e. abolishing the filibuster — if the majority that prevails is not the one he wants.
"Let the majority prevail," Biden said. "And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this."
The truth of the matter is that a majority is prevailing. That majority — currently 50 Republican senators and some moderate Democrats — is responsible for blocking Biden's agenda. The senators who support passing Biden's agenda are the minority.
Even if the filibuster did not exist, because the Senate is currently split 50-50, Democrats would have to win the support of moderates like Manchin and Sinema to even have a chance at passing legislation. In an evenly split Senate, one Democratic dissenter immediately makes the Democratic Party the minority.
Do not let the media and Democrats fool you: Democracy is working as the framers of the Constitution designed.